Three Card Poker , rules and strategy

Last updated:

June 23, 2023

Poker has many variations, most of which follow the old tradition of the final 5-card hand and multiple betting rounds. Furthermore, players play against each other and not the house, which does not oblige the house to pay the winner(s). The winner takes the pot, which has been accumulated by the wagers made by players involved in the game. On the other hand, three card poker is different in some ways, making it a unique game. You will learn everything about three card poker in this article.


What is Three Card Poker?

Three card poker is played against the house, similar to Blackjack. It was first introduced in 1994 to the poker world by Derek Webb. It is played with three cards, hence the name. The three cards you are dealt are your first and last cards, meaning there is no drawing as in Draw Poker, no extra card dealing as in Stud Poker, and no shared cards as in Community Poker.

If the player next to you has pocket aces, there is no need to worry since your hand is only compared to the dealer’s at the end. It is an easy game among poker variations that do not require complicated strategies.

Three card poker

Three card poker rules:

You can join the table and be a single player in three-card poker, provided a dealer exists. Players must post a mandatory “Ante” bet to be dealt cards (Not mandatory in some casinos. Players can instead place the optional bets). The ante bet can be any amount considering the table’s maximum and minimum limits.

There are Pair Plus and 6 Card Bonus bet options besides the Ante-Play bet, which will be discussed later in this article. Once bets are placed, the dealer deals three cards face down to the players first and to themselves last. Players have the option to fold or continue to play the game after assessing their hands. They have to place a “Play” bet which should be equal to the “Ante” bet amount in the case of continuing the game. On the other hand, folding the hand may result in losing the Ante bet to the casino.

The dealer reveals their cards after collecting the folded hands and their wagers. The dealer’s hand qualifies to play if it is Queen high or better and is considered a fold otherwise. The “Ante” bets are paid, and the “Play” bets are pushed if the dealer’s hand does not qualify. Otherwise, the dealer compares their hand with each respective player’s hand to decide the winner based on the hand rankings system. The “Ante” and “Play” bets are paid even money if a player’s hand trumps that of the dealer. Conversely, players forfeit their “Ante” and “Play” bets if their hands cannot dominate the dealer’s hand.

The Pair Plus is an optional bet, the success of which is only dependent on the composition of the player’s hand. In addition, the 6 Card Bonus bet is also a separate bet and does not involve comparing the player’s hand against the dealer’s.


Three card poker hands ranking:

Three card poker hands ranking:

A 5-card hand is the final hand in most poker variations, and a ranking system has been developed to define what beats what. Hands are ranked from highest to lowest. Some poker variations let the highest-ranked hand determine the winner, whereas others prefer the lowest-ranked hand to do the job. Also, hi-lo variants split the pot among the highest and lowest-ranked hands.

Three card poker, as the name suggests, has 3-card hands. It follows the high-ball hand rankings, where the higher-ranked hands beat the lower-ranked ones. Full House, Four-of-a-kind, and Two Pair ranking concepts cannot be implemented with three cards; thus are absent in three card poker. The rest hand rankings are used in three card poker but with different ranks.

The less frequently a hand occurs in the game, the higher it is ranked. Having this concept in mind, let’s learn about hand rankings in Three card poker. The following hands are ranked from highest to lowest.

Straight Flush:

Straight Flush:

Three cards that are identical in the suit and are in sequential order. It is the highest-ranked hand in Three card poker. A Mini Royal (Ace, King, Queen) is a subset of a Straight Flush. The probability of getting a Straight Flush is 0.22% in Three card poker compared to 0.00139% in high 5-card poker variations, such as Texas Hold’em.

Example of a Straight Flush: 10♠ 9♠ 8♠

Example of a Mini Royal: A♥ K♥ Q♥


Three of a kind:

Three of a kind:

Three cards that are of the same rank. It is the second-highest-ranked hand in Three card poker. The probability of getting a Three-of-a-kind is 0.24% compared to 2.11% in high 5-card poker variations. It happens less frequently in Three card poker; thus, it is ranked higher.

Example of a Three-of-a-kind: J ♣ J ♦ J ♥




It is a 3-card hand that contains three consecutive cards of different suits. The probability of getting a Straight is 3.26% in Three card poker compared to 0.392% in high 5-card poker variations. The probability of having a Straight increases almost 8 times in Three card poker.

Example of a Straight: 8♥ 7♠ 6♠




Three cards that are identical in the suit. The probability of getting a Flush is 4.96% in Three card poker compared to 0.196% in high 5-card poker variations. It is ranked lower than Straight and Three-of-a-kind, which is the opposite of other variations, such as Texas Hold’em.

Example of a Flush: K♣ 7♣ 2♣




If two cards that are identical in rank come among the three cards, it is called a Pair. The probability of getting a Pair is 16.94% in Three card poker compared to 42.25% in high 5-card poker variations.

Example of a Pair: 5♥ 5♠ 9♦


High Card:

High Card

Three cards that have no meaningful combinations and are just randomly-put together unmatched cards. The probability of getting a High Card is 74.39% in Three card poker compared to 50.11% in high 5-card poker variations.

Example of a High Card: J♥ 9♦ 3♠


Three card poker bets and payouts:

Three card poker is an easy casino game with few betting options and only one betting round. If luck is on your side, the payouts can get up to 1000 to 1 in three card poker. Let’s explore Three card poker bets and their payouts.

Ante bet:

It is a mandatory bet to be eligible to be dealt cards, but some casinos do not regard it as such. It is a bet against the dealer’s hand, not on the composition of the player’s hand, and not on the combination of both hands. It can be any amount taking the table’s maximum and minimum limit into consideration. Players get dealt three cards face down after placing their bets. Folding or continuing to play the game are the only options.

Play bet:

If players decide to continue the game, they should place a Play bet, which has to be equal to the Ante bet (Consider this when placing a big Ante bet). The dealer reveals their card once all players either folded or continued and checks if it is a qualified hand (Queen or better, which happens 69.59% of the time).

If the hand is qualified, the dealer checks their hand against all the remained players’ hands to determine the winner in each case. One player may lose to the dealer, whereas another may win.

Ante and Play bets payout:

  • The Ante bet is paid out at even money but the Play bet is pushed if the dealer does not have a qualifying hand.
  • The players are paid even money on both the Ante and Play bets provided their hand beats that of the dealer.
  • Not being able to defeat the dealer’s hand, the players forfeit both their Ante and Play bets.

Ante bonus payout:

If the player’s hand is Straight or higher, a bonus is paid. The probability of getting a Straight hand or higher is 3.72% in Three card poker.

Hand Rank Payout
Straight 1: 1
Three-of-a-kind 4: 1
Straight Flush 5: 1

Pair Plus bet:

It is a bet on the value of the hand rather than against the dealer’s hand. As the name suggests, if the player’s hand is a Pair or higher, the bet is successful. On average, the probability of getting a Pair hand or higher is 25%.

A player may lose their Ante and Play bets but still win the Pair Plus bet, showing the independence of both bets. The payout for the Pair Plus bet is printed on a casino table and shown in online versions. It differs from Casino to Casino, but here are the most common payouts.

Pair Plus bet payout:

Hand Rank Payout
Pair 1: 1
Flush 3: 1
Straight 6: 1
Three-of-a-kind 30: 1
Straight Flush 40: 1
Mini Royal 50: 1

A player can place a bet on the Ante, Pair Plus, and Six Card bonus at the same time. If the dealer’s hand qualifies, placing a bet on the Play becomes possible.

Six Card bonus bet:

Putting together 3 of the player’s cards alongside 3 of the dealer’s cards will give us a 6-card composition, out of which a 5-card Poker hand can be made. If the 5-card poker hand’s rank is Three-of-a-kind or higher, the bets on the Six Card bonus are successful.

Hand Rank Payout
Three-of-a-kind 5: 1
Straight 10: 1
Flush 15: 1
Full House 25: 1
Four-of-a-kind 50: 1
Straight Flush 200: 1
Royal Flush 1,000: 1

The dealer checks the possibility of a 5-card hand for the players who placed a Six Card bonus bet. It has some of the highest payouts in Three Card poker.

Three card poker odds:

Three card poker, like most casino games, comes with a house edge built into its gameplay. Pushing the Play bet when the dealer’s hand does not qualify gives the house its edge. The Ante & Play bets have a 3.37% house advantage, while the Pair Plus bet has a 2.32% house advantage. The house edge fluctuates, considering the bonus payout differences from casino to casino.

There are 22,100 possible ways to draw a distinct 3-card hand from a 52-card deck. Odds are defined as a ratio of the number of ways an event can occur to the number of ways it cannot.

Hand Rank Odds
Straight Flush 1: 460
Three of a kind 1: 424
Straight 1: 29
Flush 1: 19
Pair 1: 5
High Card 1: 0.34

Three card poker strategy:

Three card poker is a simple game that does not require complicated strategies like in Texas Hold’em. A player cannot guess the dealer’s hand unless he sneak-peeks it or other players’ hands. Some casinos offer the dealer’s third card to be dealt face-up, but it is not the general rule.

The players are left with only three cards and the option to fold or continue. The three cards are all the information a player can get access to. As the saying goes, you should make the best use of what you have.

When having a hand of Q – 6 – 4 or better, continuing to play is the best strategy. Any other hand weaker and lower than Q – 6 – 4 should be folded. You may be tempted to raise in the case of a Jack, but anything lower than a Queen should be discarded. A Q – 3 – 2 should also be discarded since the next two cards are not high enough.

There is no complicated strategy in Three card poker as there is in other casino games. The guidelines are simple and straightforward.


In a nutshell:

Three Card Poker is a unique poker variant like no other with simple gameplay. The rules are straightforward, and there is no complicated strategy involved. The payouts can get up to 1000 times your initial bet in Three Card Poker. If you want to have fun, have a drink, and make money at the same time, while other poker variations require a little bit of thinking, Three card poker is for you.


Read More:

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